Greek Dogs And Cats On “Death Row”

Greek animal welfare is no-kill. The way things usually work here is: you rescue a stray, you treat it and ¬†you place it in a foster home or a shelter until a forever home comes along – “until” meaning keeping it safe, healthy, well fed and taken care of for months, years or even its entire life.

So where is the problem and what does death row have to do with it? Well, the thing is that Greece is a country of 11 million people and about…5 million (?) strays. Since most shelters are overcrowded and adoptions are rare, animal welfare organizations usually take in more animals per month than they adopt out.


All of us have more rescues than we can handle, simply because the cases are too many and there are incidents to which you can’t say no to, no matter how impossible is seems to take in one more dog or cat.

Greece is a country of 11 million people and about…5 million (?) strays

For every dog we rescue, we choose to leave a dozen more behind, and the ones left behind are literally on death row. We know that, we cry about it at nights and there is nothing we can really do about it.


Apart from risking being ran over by a car, abused or struck by a deadly disease, all strays risk being “put to death” every single day by what has been the most common way of “population control” here for decades: poison.

Each neighborhood, village or town has its “executioner”

Each neighborhood, village or town has its “executioner” – the person that consistently keeps a steady population of strays in the area by leaving poisoned food out for them to consume and die of. The most common ways of poisoning is rat poison or broken glasses, carefully placed inside a juicy hamburger.


Poisoning is so common here, that some of us walking our dogs twice or three times a day risk losing them at any moment. It is so common to walk around and have another dog owner come to you and say: “careful, there was poison in this street yesterday again”, that our usual reply is something like: “what, again?”.

The most common ways of poisoning is rat poison or broken glasses, carefully placed inside a juicy hamburger.

Greek posts about strays here come with the description: “In urgent need of a foster home, he/she risks being poisoned”. The best thing you can do is either offer to foster the dog, or simply never look for an update on it again, because what you’ll get a few days later is something like: “RIP, nobody has come forward to adopt Oscar. He was poisoned this morning”.


This is overwhelming, frustrating and extremely unfair. And the weirdest thing of all, is that by choosing to be no-kill, makes our Greek rescues “not that much in need”, since they can stay in the shelters forever and will never be put down. By having a compassionate animal welfare, we sabotage ourselves, because anyone willing to adopt will go for a dog that was given 24 to live in a shelter somewhere in Romania.

But most dogs here are on death row too, you just haven’t realized it

But most dogs here are on death row too, you just haven’t realized it. By adopting a Greek rescue, you also save another dog that would have died a horrible death, had that kennel in the shelter not been emptied. So please, if you are one of those people willing to offer any kind of help to animals who need it the most, don’t forget Greece.


We mourn hundreds of dogs and cats every day, put to death because there is simply no room for them. It’s just that the shelters never make those decisions, random executioners do, hiding carefully in every single neighborhood, behind a kind old woman’s face who leaves poisoned food on the streets, before she goes to church.

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One thought on “Greek Dogs And Cats On “Death Row””

  1. Ah, this is so sad. No one can relate to this problem if not having witnessed strays running behind the car, lying around at the side of the road, rummaging through the trash or wandering through a field.
    Yes, it really does seem to be general belief that they are safe, because they are not systematically being killed like they are in Romania. I use the word killed with purpose, because euthanizing implies a merciful death. Romanian dogs do not die a merciful death. They are given the lowest dose of the poison (one single dose being given to as much dogs as possible) and die a horrible death, slowly. Or they don’t get treatment and die from illness or injury. Or are simply not fed, left to starve or eat each other. Of course, since strays are a huge business in Romania (and elsewhere), the public shelters will never run out of business and let some of them procreate.
    So, what to do?
    I’ll put it this way: you (and the others) do your job too well. Seriously. Greece offers dogs and cats up for adoption that basically are too “perfect”. They are healthy, socialized and lovable. A lot of work goes into making them perfect, because the notion is that they are otherwise just not adoptable.
    Remember your post regarding the dogs without a spectacular story almost never getting attention? As if they were second class, simply because they were just picked up and did not have to overcome a horrible injury/illness/past?
    Based on my experience with humans: if given the opportunity to save a Romanian dog versus a Greek one, in 99% the Romanian will get adopted. Why? Because the kill-policy of Romania is “story” enough. This dog is in no way socialized, is definitely not human centered and has so many issues to overcome, the person adopting the dog deserves a medal of honor. It’s like a kill-shelter dog is the new purebreed. It’s something to brag about.
    I’m cynical, I know.
    See, every year around Christmas, hundreds of charities beg for money for the children starving somewhere, destined for prostitution in order to earn money. People give easily to those charities, it makes them feel warm and fuzzy. The ugly truth is that here in Germany, there are starving children, too. But we have soup kitchens. Supermarkets that donate food not suitable for selling. They are taken care of, somehow. Nevertheless, they are on the brink of poverty and are more susceptible to crime, drugs, dropping out of school. They are the casualties of political shortcomings.
    And that is the ugliest part of it all: all dogs, wether Romanian, Spanish, Italian or Greek, are the casualties of political shit (sorry). Collateral damage. Corruption, ignorance and being a sorry excuse of a human is the reason we are where we are today.

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